Family of Mexican immigrant to U.S. settles lawsuit over videotaped abuse

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By Marty Graham | SAN DIEGO

SAN DIEGO Family members of an illegal immigrant
who died in 2010 following a brutal encounter with federal
border agents that was captured on videotape have agreed to
settle their lawsuit against the U.S. government for $1 million,
court documents show.

Video footage of a U.S. Customs officer tasering Anastacio
Rojas Hernandez at least four times while he lay on the ground
handcuffed and surrounded by nearly a dozen agents has been
widely broadcast and appeared in a PBS documentary about border

Hernandez’s five children sued the Department of Homeland
Security and the agents over their father’s death.

Court documents filed this week indicate that the children
will share a settlement of about $750,000. Their mother, Maria
Puga, will receive nothing and the family’s lawyers will receive

Hernandez, 42, and his brother were arrested by U.S. Border
Patrol agents on May 28, 2010, after they were caught crossing
the border from Mexico in the mountains east of San Diego.

The lawsuit, filed in January 2011, disputes federal
authorities’ assertions that he became combative, saying instead
that Hernandez became the victim of abuse when he asked to see
an immigration judge.

A border agent responded by slamming him against a wall and
kicking him so hard in the ankles that it reopened a surgical
wound in his lower leg, the lawsuit said.

Hernandez, who had lived in the San Diego area for more than
a decade, was then driven to a border crossing to be summarily
deported, and was assaulted by a group of agents there when he
again demanded medical attention and a hearing before a judge,
the complaint said.

Shoved to the ground while handcuffed, Hernandez was set
upon by several agents who repeatedly punched, kicked and
stomped on his head and body, then stood back as one officer
administered a series of five electric shocks to him with a
Taser, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint said agents then beat Hernandez more and used
plastic zip-ties to strap his ankles to his wrists, leaving him
in that hog-tied position as he stopped breathing. He was
resuscitated but died later at a hospital without ever regaining

Justice Department officials announced in November 2015 that
they had closed their investigation of Hernandez’s death without
bringing civil or criminal action against the federal agents
involved, saying that there was insufficient evidence to prove
they had violated Hernandez’s civil rights.

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